The nutrients we put into our body, is a conscious decision, that we make every day. Diet plays a huge role in our bodies inflammatory response. We can choose to eat foods that strengthen our superpower or eat foods that destroy it. Knowledge is key when it comes to our health, and we are constantly being bombarded with the latest ‘good for you, bad for you foods’. There are so many conflicting studies on foods we may deem ‘healthy’, but the fact is it’s probably doing our body more harm than good. I have never spent so much time on PubMed in my life, which I don’t wish upon anyone because frankly, it makes your brain hurt! Probably one of the main reasons I’m not a Doctor. But I did it, and after weeks of research, I finally finished this post! Total bonus - you don’t have to do the research now. LUCKY YOU!
There are certain foods that can activate a low grade, but consistent, inflammatory response in the body. Let’s take a quick look at some of these common foods that destroy our superpower turning it into chronic inflammation.
Added sugars are a significant proportion of the US diet today. Over the past 25 years, the average person’s sugar intake has gone from 123 to as many as 160 pounds a year. Crap that's a hella a lot of sugar! That’s more than 20 teaspoons of added sugar per person per day. These sugars like to hang out in processed and packaged foods, soft drinks, energy drinks, & pretty much anything that contains artificial ingredients. These added or excess sugars can stimulate inflammatory signals that can lead to inflammatory pathways in the body. The addictive nature of sugar is a vicious cycle. One of our body’s goals is to get glucose into our brain cells for brain function. But when we have inflammation in our body, it prevents the glucose from getting to those brain cells. The result? You end up craving more glucose, which makes you eat more sugary foods, which then increases the inflammation and starts this whole vicious cycle over again!
Saturated Fats can create, Adipose, which is a fat tissue inflammation. Studies have proven that diets high in saturated fats can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, asthma, certain cancers, and more. The majority of Saturated fats we eat come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products like fatty beef, pork, butter, and cheese. It also can be found in fried foods and baked goods.
Basically can be found in anything artificial or processed. Those dreaded words: “partially hydrogenated oils” is where you’ll find them. And just as a side note: On June 16, 2015, The FDA made a final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in human food. YUCK. Trans fats are an immense contributor to systemic inflammation. Run. Run as far away from this crap as possible.
Refined carbohydrates encourages oxidative stress and high inflammatory markers contributing to inflammatory disease. Again, processed foods take the stage. Most refined carbs are processed and stripped of all fiber, vitamins, and minerals. When shopping for bread, rice, or flours, keep in mind that if its white, its void of any nutrients and full of empty calories. Also goes the same for pastries, sodas, snacks, pasta, sweets, breakfast cereals and added sugars. These all have a high glycemic index, which leads to rapid spikes in blood sugar & insulin levels after eating. This can lead to overeating and a vicious cycle that leads to more sugar cravings.
Are we seeing a pattern here with Processed foods? All these foods listed above are not real, whole foods. Most of them are man-made, packed with artificial ingredients, preservatives, and colors.
Other groups of foods that can trigger chronic inflammation are those that cause ‘sensitivities’ or ‘allergies’ in people. These include gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and nuts. If you suffer from health issues such as leaky gut, IBS, Celiacs, and Hashimoto's, (just to name a few) eating these foods can exasperate the already present low-grade inflammation that is common with these diseases.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, & barley. These proteins can irritate our gut. They are like an annoying papercut or splinter, that just keeps digging into our gut lining, causing chronic inflammation. People who suffer from celiac disease, when they eat gluten it triggers a negative immune response, that damages the lining of the small intestine. This interferes with their bodies ability to absorb nutrients from food, causing a host of other symptoms leading to problems like osteoporosis, nerve damage, infertility, and seizures. However, eliminating gluten is not just for people with celiac disease. Because gluten affects our gut, it is wise for people who suffer from any type of gut issue to steer clear of it.
There are many conflicting studies on dairy causing inflammation in the body. Why? Well, because it’s not the dairy itself that causes the inflammation. It’s what is in the dairy that doesn't agree with most populations digestive systems. The four main culprits are Lactose, Casein, hormones, and antibiotics. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and most dairy products. People with a lactose intolerance don’t produce the lactase enzyme, which is needed to break down the sugar. People who are not lactose intolerant, but still have trouble with dairy, are usually reacting poorly to the Casein, which is the protein found in milk. The immune system mistakes casein as something the body needs to fight off, which triggers an allergic reaction.
Now let’s talk about the hormones that are injected to most of the cattle in America. Dairy Farmers, in America, have been injecting cattle with genetically engineered bovine growth hormones to increase their milk production. This increase in milk production causes their udders to get a mastitis infection. Which then leads to the injections of antibiotics. These hormones and antibiotics, of course, make their way into the dairy products we consume. Interestingly enough, when I was doing the research for this blog post, I said to myself- well LED Light Therapy helps with Mastitis, why aren't dairy farmers approaching this holistically and using LT instead of nasty antibiotics?
The effect of Soy on the body is a more personal one for me. I couldn’t get pregnant because I had such an overabundance of inflammation in my body, due to my soy intake. It wasn’t just in the food I was eating, but also in the skin and makeup products, I was using on myself and others all day long. As a makeup artist for 20 plus years of my life, all those toxins were flooding my body, seeping through my skin, via my hands. Both soy and gluten, unfortunately, are in most of the cosmetics, hair care, and skin care companies out there. So here’s the thing with soy- it has high levels of phytoestrogens, which are compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. Our Endocrine System does not produce this naturally, we can only consume or ingest them. Because it acts like a ‘false’ estrogen, it can disrupt the Endocrine System in both females and males. Phytoestrogens block and replace naturally produced estrogen which can cause, inflammation, infertility, premature menstruation, ‘man boobs’, and more. And PS- there are 78 alternative names for soy on ingredient listing labels, so beware!
The protein found in corn can look like gluten and this can cause a gluten-like cellular immune response. The molecules in corn, like gluten, trick our body by imitating our body’s own tissues which contribute to autoimmunity. Here lies another major problem: as gluten-free diets are consistently on the rise, more and more gluten-free junk foods are coming into the marketplace. Much of these gluten-free foods are derived from genetically modified corn. Because corn is plentiful and cheap you will find them in almost all processed foods using corn derivatives such as corn syrup, corn oil, corn starch. When corn is refined, it spikes blood sugar, which leads increased insulin and inflammatory responses.
I have very mixed feelings about nuts. I personally love them, and yes, I eat them. But, if you suffer from digestive issues or have an inflammatory disease, I usually recommend that you stay away from them. For starters, they are a histamine-rich food. Histamine is a chemical we produce that is responsible for major functions like communicating messages from our body to our brain, a component to stomach acid- helping us break down our food, and is a part of our body’s immune response. When histamine levels get too high or cannot break down properly, it can cause inflammation. Another issue is the Omega-6 fatty acids. Even though nuts contain healthy anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids, they also contain high pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. Again, striking a balance here is critical, eating too many nuts can cause increased inflammation. Lastly, because nuts are also high in phytic acid, it can impair the absorption of essential minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium, which can create mineral deficiencies in our body’s. Being deficient in such minerals can contribute to chronic inflammation. After discovering these nut facts, I’m reconsidering the elimination of nuts from my diet. But oh those nut butters...Why are they so good?!?!
These foods can ignite inflammatory responses in your gut. When your body ingests these foods it can see them as foreign invaders, causing macrophages (a large white blood cell that that ingests foreign particles and infectious microorganisms) to attack them. It's as if a bomb has gone off in your digestive system creating a cascade of negative effects on your body. The result is inflammation in your bloodstream. And the more inflammation we have in our intestines, the more we allow toxins to enter our bloodstream. So, eating unhealthy foods is like battling a chronic infection that triggers our immune response, causing inflammation.
Learn more about how LED Light Therapy can reduce the inflammation caused by unhealthy diet.
Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Gluten Sensitivities (gut damage)
Impact of Dairy
Hormones in Dairy Foods
Alternative Names for Soy
Maize (induces gluten-like response)
Omega-6 fatty acids